Crystal Bridges Museum of Art is a behemoth armadillo looking edifice nestled between oaks in the heart of downtown Bentonville. It manages to sit in the midst of a city as well as deep in the Ozarks at the same time. It is home to Rosie the Riveter and a personal favorite of mine, Maxwell Parish’s Lantern Bearers. It is also free and as a homeschool mom and former art student, it’s pretty much where we spend the majority of our fieldtrips. So us piling into the car to head to the museum for the day is not out of the norm, our objective on Wednesday however, was a little different.
I realize that my outings with seven kiddos in tow may have the look of the Hotel Transylvania wolves, but my intention of getting in and out safely in any public place is the same as any mama’s. With our crew it can be hard to keep them contained to a certain space, but we make it work. Teaching that many to be observant of their surroundings is also something we have to maneuver and since I consider managing your environment part of self-defense, it makes sense that we would incorporate this with our kids and drill it like anything else.
So Wednesday we went to the museum, but not necessarily to look at art. My objective was to work with them on being calculative and assertive with the things they see, get them to notice more around them in an effort to continually work on their safety. Their objective was a game.
My age range usually is an 18-year-old with special needs, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 2. We sort of cover all the ground there……. My drill must be broad and age attentive, however before entry of any place we usually go over in the car a reminder of what to do if you have been picked up by someone that is not us. If you get a chance, follow Ms. Amber Elle on Instagram. She has some fantastic tips for this and is also a wealth of ideas when it comes to protecting your children in public settings. She talks of making sure that your children don’t just scream loudly if the above occurs but shout very pointedly that the person carrying them is not their parent. I run this with my kids in the car, making them verbally yell, “This is not my mom! This is not my dad!”
We also discuss what possible “safe” people look like in case they get lost or something happens that causes them to be separated from us. Police officers, security guards, military in uniform, and a woman with children are the ones we pretty much hammer home. I make sure my kids know that I am running similar drills with women when I teach self-defense; that these repetitions are imperative to safety with children as much as adults.
Crystal Bridges day was about observation. I made some numbered flashcards with things to look for and once we got out of the car the game was on. They had to complete their task on a card I handed them. On it I listed things like finding two good hiding spots, locate three safe people, look for one person that look agitated or is wearing unseasonal clothes, etc. They have to tell me what they see, but the kicker of this is that they have to do it discreetly or it doesn’t count. They cannot be loud with their statements, nor point. The idea is to be on a “mission” that nobody else, but our family knows about. I okay their card if they have finished it, take it, and give them a new one. They mark down their number and the one who gets the most when we get back to the car wins. With the younger two I have them point out every security guard they see and they get one point (we were surrounded by priceless art so this kind of got old….) Also, I reiterate that the older ones maintain “protector mode” for the babies while observing what is in their surroundings, working with me to make sure small ones don’t stray. Several eyes are better than just my two, so we alternate hand holding. Also this keeps sticky fingers off of Andy Warhol….
In a previous article Gut Punch Yourself, https://www.facebook.com/107895177634806/posts/170975407993449/?d=n I wrote about how I had a person follow my three boys and I through several stores in Joplin. Finally in the last one my neck grew hot and I turned to deal with the man who was entirely too close to us. I don’t let my kids stray much in public, but their safety meant it was imperative that they were right next to me in that moment. I very assertively said, “BOYS HERE!” to rein them in close while I stared at the man who then turned immediately around and bolted from the store. This is another drill I will randomly implement with my kids. I will wait and watch for when they are stretching the perimeter a bit because let’s face it, kids are mile long inchworms. I will say just loudly enough for them to hear me, “Kids here!” Their job is to come as quickly as possible to my side, if there are little ones who are near them, they are to pull them along. They know not to goof off during this, it has been explained (and with the boys lived in real life) that this is a serious drill. They are to stand to my side or directly behind me, not in front where they could impede the view of our surroundings. They know my job is to protect them and I want them to have the tools so that if it is needed, they are in the safest spot possible.
I once heard a pastor speak of his missionary time in the Peruvian Jungle where a child not listening right away when a parent said, “move!” or “jump!” was extremely dangerous due to poisonous snakes, cartel issues, etc. They had to take direction seriously and this is what I go over with the kiddos, there is a time to giggle and screw around, this drill is not one of them, time in the parking lot is not one of them.
I am not teaching my children to fear the world. I don’t want that at all and if you have spent any time with them you will know they are outgoing, friendly, sometimes too friendly, and will become besties with anyone. Also bring up Pokémon and all our training will go out the window faster than an approaching security guard at Crystal Bridges after seeing my kids with pens…. I do however want them safe, and this world really isn’t. We can ignore the signs in the news, we can ignore our gut instincts, but at the end of the day mental health is declining around us and I want them as prepared as possible. I am not kidding when I say that within a 50-mile radius of my home I have read of several abduction attempts, violent crimes against women and children, you name it, all within the last few months. I don’t live in a large city, I don’t live in a bad area, these are just local store parking lots, vehicles, and people’s homes. It is happening, so I drill.
#teachingkiddos #drillwithyourkids #haveaplan #observation #safepeople #crystalbridges #rosietheriveter #thelanterbearer #ispy #wildones
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal